In many ways the Elite Eight clash between the Florida Gators and Dayton Flyers is perfect. On one side, there is the top overall seed in the tournament and a team that hasn't lost since early December. On the other, a true Cinderella that lost in the quarterfinals of its conference tournament but got hot at the right time.
Now the question becomes whether the Flyers can ride their wave of momentum into the Final Four or if the Gators are set to bring the magical run to an end. At the very least, the contrast in hype and star power should create quite the spectacle.
Before taking a closer look at the matchup, let's check out all of the updated bracket information. That's followed by all of the details for how the watch Florida take on Dayton and a preview of the anticipated Elite Eight contest.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
Where: FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn.
When: Saturday, March 29 at 6:09 p.m. ET
Live Stream: March Madness Live
Preview and Prediction
If you analyze the game in a vacuum, as in breaking down just the talent on the two rosters and each team's resume for the full season, the clear edge goes to Florida. In fact, it's possible to reach the conclusion from that perspective that it would be a Gators blowout.
That's not how things work, of course. A lot depends on how a team is playing at the current time, as opposed to what happened in a loss to Rhode Island in January. Dayton has proved that with upsets over Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford.
In cases of a Cinderella run, it often doesn't matter how much statistical analysis is done. Sometimes the human factor, and intangible things like budding confidence gained from upsetting bigger programs, leads to unexpected results.
Considering that helps explain an interesting fact provided by Bryan Armen Graham of Sports Illustrated. It shows that in five previous meetings where a No. 1 seed faced a No. 11 seed, the underdog team actually has a winning record:
Something happens to help spark a run, and then all bets are off, which also helps explain why people can feel confident in offering up $1 billion for a perfect bracket. There are simply too many unanticipated results to guess every single one right.
The winning record for No. 11 seeds against their more heralded top-seeded opponents is a cautionary tale for Florida. The Gators can't afford to play any less than their best and expect to win despite the clear advantage on paper.
Florida put together a comprehensive performance to eliminate Pittsburgh in the third round. The two games sandwiched around that win were far less convincing, however. If Scottie Wilbekin didn't emerge from his slumber to finish strong on Thursday night, UCLA may have completed the comeback.
That said, the Gators have shown a similar finishing ability all season. Their only two losses came by a combined seven points on the road against Wisconsin and Connecticut—two teams also enjoying tournament success—very early in the season.
Since then, every time Florida was challenged, it rose to the occasion. Whether it was Michael Frazier II, Casey Prather, Patric Young or Wilbekin, a player always stepped up down the stretch. That bodes well, should another Dayton upset bid arise.
The Gators are also using the right mindset. Eamonn Brennan of ESPN passed along comments from Young, who said the team was happy to reach this point, but made it clear there was work left to do:
We set our goals to be here, to be this team that could use a lot of guys. But [in November], we never knew what would happen.
It's been a process, it's been quite a journey, and it's been a great year. But we're not done.
Jordan Sibert, Devin Oliver and Dyshawn Pierre have led a formidable group for Dayton. They didn't blink in close contests with Ohio State and Syracuse. But taking down the top overall seed is a completely different challenge.
The Flyers should put up a strong enough fight to keep Florida fans on the edge of their seats until the final minutes. In the end, however, Florida has too many different weapons for Dayton to contain. The Gators will earn the berth to the Final Four.
Prediction: Florida 75, Dayton 67
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